On the hill of San Benigno lies the Lanterna. The ‘Capo di Faro’ has been a beacon that helped vessels guide their way into the port of Genoa and warmly helped them avoid the rocks. The Derby della Lanterna takes its name from this landmark, and as this festive version of that passionate and raucous game plays out tonight, both teams need the light to avoid floundering amongst the rocks.
Italy’s oldest team and their stylish neighbouring upstarts lock horns in one of the most combative derbies in recent years. To the victor goes not just bragging rights, as it is major opportunity to kick-start their season and potentially send their rivals crashing towards Serie B.
Thiago Motta may say that the pressure is not getting to him, but without a win in six games, since his team beat Brescia 3-1 on his debut as a coach, it simply must be. One point behind Sampdoria, the Grifone are in poor form and even the Coppa Italia 3-2 win against Ascoli was a struggle. Motta may argue that he has stopped the rot as draws against Napoli, SPAL and Lecce have been in the last four games with only one defeat coming in a tight game against Torino.
The problem is that Genoa are defensively inept and the 30 goals conceded is the worst record in the league. For a long time the club has been in disarray, a chairman who wants out yet cannot find a buyer is never healthy for the longevity of a team. Enrico Preziosi has been forced to put the Serie A club up for sale after months of protests from fans, but no offers are coming in.
Sampdoria aren’t faring much better. Claudio Ranieri may be well respected as the gentleman of the modern game, but his approach isn’t working. “We arrive after three defeats. It couldn’t be worse. We’re not crying though. We know the derby is emotional for everyone. We will try to play our game against a Genoa side who have already embraced the philosophy of their coach. We need to be careful and practical.” The statement was interesting, as the coach believed Genoa are embarking on a journey that sees they play with a perceived style. Whilst not that evident to the naked eye, the Rossoblu are at least trying to play and Sampdoria perhaps should be concerned.
Ranieri’s team desperately need a boost. Fabio Quagliarella cannot bail them out every season and his goals have dried up. They need more from the rest of the squad but yet they lack intensity, quality and it has to be said direction. The coach’s comments were correct and this is why they were so telling. Despite Genoa’s plight, you can see that they are all focused on achieving a certain way of playing, albeit a difficult one to identify. The Blucerchiati have lost this and they are a far cry from the team that performed so admirably under Marco Giampaolo. The ridiculous nature of the 4-3 defeat to Cagliari simply highlighted all of their issues in one crazy game.
All three of Italy’s main sports papers refereed to this Derby as the ‘scary derby’ or the ‘derby of fear’ and they all have grasped the magnitude. Of course we expect a blistering atmosphere, it is arguably Italy’s second biggest Derby and the fans will do everything they can to lift their teams for this. Sampdoria face Juventus and then Milan afterwards, it really cannot be understated how this game will be enormous for their confidence. Genoa on the other hand have Inter next before taking on Sassuolo. It just does not get easy for any of the port city’s teams.
Sampdoria’s Ultras met the team at their hotel, they wanted to give encouragement, but also it would seem to send a message. This is not just a normal Derby, Ranieri was right; this is a Derby that could not be played in worse conditions. For fans of the Rossoblu or the Blucerchiati this will be one of the most tortuous games of football in living memory. For the neutral however, it will simply be wonderful.